VIDEO: West Sussex council votes to ‘stay neutral’ over fracking

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Protesters were left disappointed today (Friday October 17) as councillors voted against making West Sussex a ‘frack-free zone’.

Residents were at the full council meeting at Horsham’s County Hall North presenting a petition for more than 3,500 signatures of people supporting their call.

JPCT 171014 S14440413x Horsham. Demonstration outside County Hall North Friends of the Earth. Frack Free Zone -photo by Steve Cobb SUS-141017-120046001

JPCT 171014 S14440413x Horsham. Demonstration outside County Hall North Friends of the Earth. Frack Free Zone -photo by Steve Cobb SUS-141017-120046001

They wanted the council to put a moratorium in place to delay any fracking in the county for five years while more research into the effect on health and the environment is carried out.

Fracking, the term used for hydraulic fracturing, is a process used to free up oil and shale gas from rocks deep underground.

It involves blasting water and chemicals into the rock and those against the method say there is increasing evidence worldwide to suggest it can lead to health problems.

The company Cuadrilla had permission to carry out exploratory drilling for oil and Celtique Energie this week appealed the county council’s decision to refuse planning permission to drill near Wisborough Green and Kirdford.

After a lengthy debate in which councillors from all parties spoke for and against fracking, cabinet member for highways and transport Pieter Montyn proposed the following alternative motion for members to vote on: “That the county council, whilst recognising the public concern on the subject of fracking and the significance of any planning application for our community and our environment, prefers not to adopt a position on the subject which could be seen as constraining the proper exercise of the functions of the council’s planning committee.”

He argued it was important for the council to stay impartial on the issue.

He said to support or denounce fracking could be seen legally as deciding an planning application ahead of it coming to the county’s planning committee.

Many member agreed with him. In a recorded vote, 52 members voted for the motion, six were against and there were three abstentions.

Lead petitioner Phil Donaghue, of Wisborough Green, said: “It’s not totally unexpected. At least we made them debate it and record a vote. They have decided to sit on the fence and not take a position.

“It’s not unexpected but still disappointing. They still have the motion they voted on in October 2013, which is completely out of date,

“I’ve left that with them. If they do not want to go as far as making a moratorium, then they should at least update it.”

For the full story see next week’s paper.